All your questions on child labour, answered by experts.

Download Child Labour Global Estimates 2020

The worst forms of child labour involve children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age. 


Hazardous child labour is work which is likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of children. 


  • Exposes children to physical, psychological, or sexual abuse
  • Happens underground, under water, at dangerous heights, or in confined spaces
  • Includes dangerous machinery, equipment, and tools
  • Exists in an unhealthy environment which may, for example, expose children to hazardous substances, agents or processes, or to temperatures, noise levels, or vibrations damaging to their health
  • Occurs under difficult conditions, such as work for long hours, during the night, or work where the child is unreasonably confined to the premises of the employer

Globally, 222 million children between 5 and 17 years old are in employment. 160 million of them are in child labour. Almost half of them, 79 million, work in hazardous child labour. 

This means that one out of 10 children in the world are in child labour, with one out of 20 in hazardous child labour.

Almost half of child labour happens in Sub-Saharan Africa (86,6 million children), followed by Eastern and South-Eastern Asia (24,3 million) and Central and Southern Asia (26,3 million). 

One out of five children (23.9%) in Africa are in child labour. Prevalence in other regions ranges from 5% to 6% (6% Latin America and the Caribbean, and 5,6% Asia and the Pacific).

Child labour is mostly concentrated in agriculture (70%), which includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding, and aquaculture. Then, 19,7% work in services and 10,3% in industries, including mining.

Since 2000, total child labour has been reduced by 35%, from 246 to 160 million. Hazardous child labour has decreased by 54%, from 171 to 79 million. 

But, the pace of reduction has been stalled since 2016, from 152 to 160 million in child labour, and from 73 to 79 million in hazardous child labour. This compares with a reduction of 16 million from 2012 to 2016, 12 million of whom were in hazardous work.

Learn more

The ILO’s NORMLEX database provides information about what conventions a country has ratified. Find your country’s profile, read comments from the ILO supervisory bodies, and visit links to view national legislation.

You can also find information on the extent, characteristics, and determinants of child labour at the global, country, and sectoral levels from the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour and Forced Labour (IPEC+).

The United Nations global SDG database of UNSTATS tracks progress of a range of indicators at the national level.

National employers and workers organizations are another useful source of information on child labour issues.

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